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American Restricts Main Cabin Extra Elite Upgrades

American has announced the first significant frequent-flyer policy change since merging with US Airways.

For some AAdvantage elites, and some US Airways elites as well, the change amounts to a cut in benefits. More worrisome still is the prospect that it may presage a further erosion of elite perks.

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American didn't so much announce the change so much as they slipped it onto the landing page for their Main Cabin Extra seating:

AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum members and their oneworld equivalents, as well as Dividend Miles Preferred members and customers who purchase a full-fare Main Cabin ticket receive complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra seats. This benefit is also extended to our AAdvantage Gold members through March 17, 2014.

So, from March 18, AAdvantage Gold elites and US Airways Silver elites will no longer receive automatic upgrades to Main Cabin Extra seats when purchasing full-fare coach tickets. Mitigating the pain somewhat, entry-level elites will be able to purchase Main Cabin Extra seats for 50 percent less, or upgrade on a space-available basis within 24 hours of a flight's departure.

It was always American's stated intention to rescind complimentary upgrades to Extra seats, first at the end of 2013, and then on March 1. So Gold elites shouldn't be surprised by the downgrade, if they were paying attention to AAdvantage member communications.

Nevertheless, it sends a less-than-encouraging message to elite customers of the "New American."

Reader Reality Check

What are your expectations for elite perks under American's new management?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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